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Selwyn Council supports resolution regarding ESA
July 15, 2017
BY TERRY GILLIS
At Tuesday evening’s Selwyn Council meeting, a Request for Endorsement for the Resolution regarding ESA - Bill 148 from the Economic Development and Business Committee (EDBC) was on the agenda.
Being one of the two Council members sitting on the EDBC, Deputy Mayor Sherry Senis gave some background on the Resolution (Submission - Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs) and the Request for Endorsement.
On June 26 Selwyn’s Economic Development and Business Committee (EDBC) met for their regularly scheduled monthly meeting. At that meeting the topic of the motions passed by both the Township and County’s Councils requesting that the Province conduct a comprehensive economic impact analysis prior to making changes to the ESA were discussed. Mayor Mary Smith, also on the Committee, did not attend the meeting.
According to some members present at the meeting, the committee wanted to make recommendations to the Province on the subject and decided to have an extra meeting the following week to discuss only this issue.
On July 5 the EDBC met for a special meeting, wherein Committee members reviewed a draft motion related to the proposed ESA changes that was draft by Chair Mitchell.
The EDBC’s motion stated that the Economic Development and Business Committee believes establishing an appropriate minimum wage and addressing precarious employment is an important priority for the government and that creating a climate for small and medium sized businesses to thrive in the Township of Selwyn is a key initiative in providing local employment.
The motion also stated that the Committee (EDBC) feels that a large increase to the minimum wage will put upward pressure on wage costs generally and that good policy should be evidence based.
The Committee was not stating that they were against changes to the employment standards act generally or the minimum wage increase specifically, but rather that changes to ESA and minimum wage as outlined in Bill 148 need to be implemented in a balanced way.
The motion also noted that the Township of Selwyn has a high proportion of seniors whose purchasing power may be impacted by potential increased costs passed along to consumers as a result of businesses implementing ESA changes.
Three specific goals are hoped to be achieved by the proposed actions recommended by the EDBC;
1. That the cost of increasing the minimum wage and making changes to the ESA be funded through the income tax system and not exclusively by businesses, agricultural producers or consumers.
2. That the benefits of providing increased wages and enhanced employment standards be balanced with the financial capacity of the economy and more specifically the capacity of businesses to absorb the increased costs.
3. That the government introduce specific measures to assist small and medium sized businesses to adopt the planned changes.
The recommended actions being put forth to the Province for consideration are:
A. That the government delay the implementation of both the minimum wage increase and changes to the ESA as proposed through Bill 148 until January 2020 to allow businesses time to plan and adjust their business approaches and that the current inflationary increases to the minimum wage be maintained to allow wage increases to remain consistent with consumer price index increases.
B. That after completing an appropriate economic analysis in 2018/19, any proposed increased in minimum wages or changes to the ESA resulting from Bill 148 be implemented over three years beginning in 2020.
C. That the unique challenges faced by seasonal employers (such as in tourism and agriculture) and those whose business is impacted by weather (i.e. roofers, window washers, etc.), be considered and that appropriate mitigation measures be implemented in conjunction with any changes.
D. That any amendments to the minimum wage and the ESA be supported by an economic analysis with suggestions on how to mitigate economic impacts.
E. That changes to the minimum wage and the ESA be accompanied by a corporate tax cut so as to ensure local businesses remain competitive.
F. That the small business tax exemption amount be increased and the applicable tax rate be reduced.
G. That the government provide time limited rebates to small businesses experiencing increased costs associated with the minimum wage increase and changes to ESA.
H. That the government take measures which reduce input costs for businesses (i.e. Provincial licence fees, such as licence plate renewals).
I. That the government increase the thresholds relative to a business’s payroll burden to ensure that increased payroll costs do not act as a disincentive to businesses to grow and expand.
J. That the government consider other approaches to assist low wage workers such as:
I. An increase in the income threshold subject to income tax,
II. A guaranteed annual income,
III. A new refundable tax credit for low wage earners.
K. That the government consider increasing luxury taxes as a means to raise revenues to fund incentives to businesses to implement ESA changes.
Additionally, in their Resolution, the Committee recommended that the Council for the Township of Selwyn endorse and forward the Committee’s Resolution to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs that is currently receiving public input on Bill 148, with suggestions on how the government should proceed with implementation of employment standards changes and that a copy of the Resolution be sent to appropriate government ministries, relevant Ministers, area MPPs, the Kawartha Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce.
After providing some background and explaining her rationale for moving the EDBC’s motion, Deputy Mayor Senis said that, “we are not a big urban city like Toronto, who might be able to absorb this. We are rural, with many tourist based businesses, and agricultural producers. We must support our business in our township, to keep a healthy tax base. I urge you, my colleagues to endorse this motion, so we can send it to the Province in written form in time for the deadline which is July 21.”
Councillor Ballantyne said that it was “an excellent and well thought out motion,” and she was, “happy to move the motion.”
Councillor Herron seconded the motion to support the EBDC’s request for Endorsement for their Resolution.
Councillor Locke said that the Resolution “touched on a lot of important aspects,” and she said she was supporting it.
Mayor Smith called for a recorded vote before saying, “It’s a very complex issue, and I’m going to remain consistent in my position.”
Councillor Herron asked Mayor Smith if she was on the Economic Development and Business Committee. To which Mayor Smith replied that as Councillors, they are all entitled to their own opinions and choices.
Mayor Smith said she feels that “it’s up to all these specific groups (Chambers of Commerce, business associations, etc.) and the public to provide input and comments to the government.
The motion to support the EBDC’s request for Endorsement for the Resolution Submission - Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs was carried by a vote of 4 to 1, with Mayor Smith the only one to vote no.
Earlier in the day, Trent Lake’s Council supported the Resolution in principle.